100 Halls Around Manchester Part 90: Mr Marsden’s House, Market Street Lane

Halls Menu

The illustrations around Casson & Berry’s 1740s plans of Manchester intrigue me. They display some still existing, but often also long gone landmarks of the town. Moreover, the houses are known by their owner, whose name has also frequently disappeared into obscurity. They have had their fifteen minutes.

Mr Marsden’s house is one such building. Occupying a prominent position on what was a major thoroughfare, it looks grand, standing three stories high. Yet who was he, how could he afford such an elegant Regency townhouse and why did it disappear.

It is not clear when the house was built, but by 1793 Marsden’s fame was sufficient to have had a square, Marsden Square named after him. We can surmise that Marsden’s Court was where his house stood. That whole area is now replaced by the Arndale. Those of you who marvel at city centre appartments will see that the wheel is only coming full circle, and if you remember Arndale Manchester pre bomb, you will recognise Cromford Court as the home of those rather lonely houses that once sat above the shopping mall.

Starting work in 1981 and working on Sundays in Manchester it was a quiet place, no shops open and very few people venturing into the centre. We did spot the odd caretaker living above the shop but we knew about Cromford Court. Surprisingly it was built in 1981, so postdates the Arndale by a few years. Theres an account of the flats here.

Cromford Court © Guiness Northern Counties Housing

The Beatles even visited Cromford Court in its pre Arndale days.

However, to return to the 1740s, Manchester was still a small town. Fields surrounded Market Street, yet it was starting to grow rapidly.

The Marsden family came from Bolton. Thomas Marsden (1648-1696) made a fortune from cotton. He bought the raw material from London and had it spun by weavers in their cottages, taking it back to the Capital for sale. He made a great deal of money from this, earning £50,000 over three years. At the time the headmaster of Bolton school earned £50 pa. Entering the nouveau riche, in 1670 he purchased Little Bolton Hall from Gilbert Ireland to give him a residence fit for his stature.

Little Bolton Hall © Halliwell Local History Society

The original house dated from 1486 and was constructed by Robert De Bolton. The Marsdens owned it until around 1860 when it was substantially altered by Stephen Blair, and eventually donated to the vicarage. Thomas’ son, also Thomas (1663-1714) continued in the family business and married Sarah Croxton. He founded the Marsden Charity School at Churchgate, Bolton in 1714. That too has disappeared, although the name lives on in schools around Bolton.

James Marsden (1684-1750) is likely the Mr Marsden who decided he befitted a town house in the up and coming metropolis of Manchester. He built a fine house with gardens. He was born in Bolton and married Alice Lever (1691-1737) in Bolton around 1728, so perhaps that dates the move to Manchester, although one of his daughters Mary was born in 1715 and christened in Newton, perhaps there was an earlier marriage. Whether he carried on in trade, or was just a gentleman of leisure we do not know. James died in December 1750 and was interred at St Anne in Manchester.

James had two children. James (1726-1758), who also lived at the house. He married Sarah around 1751. The two were buried at St Ann. His daughter, Mary (b 1715) married Henshaw Thornycroft (1713-1780), of Thornycroft Hall. The Thornycrofts are an old Cheshire family who became notable sculptors and marine engineers.

James Junior (born c1756) is probably the last inhabitant of the house. His father had a son and two daughters, and there is no record of him having any issue, thus the line died out.

In the 1825 the Council was extensively redeveloping Market Street to something like we recognise today. The executors of Mr Marsden had sold the property to the council for around £3,000 (£350,000 in 2022). At that time he owned 557 yards of Market Street and 141 yards on Toll Lane. This purchase was settled, but the Manchester Street Improvements Act of 1821 gave rise to many compulsory purchase orders and litigation from the aggrieved property owners.

The face of Market Street changed radically, and we can presume that Mr Marsden’s house was demolished for shops or warehouses. We are lucky to have a few images of Market Street from before that time, see if you are able to spot our residence.

Marsden Square lived on as a centre for warehouses and shops in the warren of streets that predated the Arndale Centre, and even lives on today on Marsden Way in the mall.

I think I prefer Mr Marsden’s House to the Arndale. Let’s see the picture:

Casson & Berry 1741


Little Bolton, Margaret Koppens & Elizabeth Tatman

© Allan Russell 2021.


One thought on “100 Halls Around Manchester Part 90: Mr Marsden’s House, Market Street Lane

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s